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Science Week 2014

Move It! During Science Week this year pupils will be exploring friction, forces and movement

Monday 3rd March - Scientists in the Wild

To kick off this year’s Science Week we have invited three real life scientists to come into school to talk about what they do out in the big, wild, scientific world:

Dr Ed Hutchinson from the University of Oxford is a Virologist who investigates the virus which causes flu.

     Mrs Katrina Randon is a Logistics Engineer who works out the best way to move things.

Mr Jamie Clark is a Physicist who make equipment to see through clouds from space!

Introduced by Dr Bearchell this is a fantastic opportunity for the children to find out what being a real scientist is all about.

Tuesday 4th March - Jack and the Beanstalk Science Show

Don’t miss this interactive science show for all the family!  At 6pm on Tuesday evening Dr Bearchell will be bringing her very  own Jack and the Beanstalk Science Show to Garsington Primary. There will be some flashes, bangs and exciting experiments all exploring the science behind one of our favourite fairy tales!

Free tickets are available in the office. 100 seats available.

Rumour has it, it is also pancake day on Tuesday, so there will be lots of flippin’ good pancakes on sale too! What a good way to teach the kids about gravity!

Wednesday 5th March—Forces & Motion: Move It!

On Wednesday the whole school will be exploring a variety of vehicles and how forces and motion—pushing, pulling, resistance, friction, gravity and up thrust—can change the way they move.

Following two fun-packed informative assemblies to KS1 and KS2, pupils will be putting their learning into action. Pupils will construct their own flying machines and those that make the longest flights will make it into a grand final!

Friday 7th March – Marshmallow Mega structures

On Friday it’s the great marshmallow building challenge!

In a race against the clock pupils will be challenged to work in groups to construct exciting ‘mega structures’ using marshmallows and sticks of spaghetti. Who will build the tallest? What sort of shapes work best—pyramids or cubes? Can anyone make a bridge? The best free standing structures will be shown off and designs discussed in a rounding up assembly.

A huge thanks in advance to Dr Bearchell and Mrs Arbuckle for putting together such a fun- packed and informative Science week.

More Science Fun

For more information on national and local science week activities please check out:

 7th—23rd March 2014

14th—23rd March 2014



Ask our Scientist!

Have you got a question to ask our very own scientist? Pop your question onto a piece of paper and post it into Dr Bearchell's head (just outside Reception). Then be prepared to get mucky or roped in to doing some experiments to find the answers!

Dr Bearchell delivers a dedicated Ask a Scientist Assembly for Foundation Stage pupils, Key Stage 1 pupils, and Key Stage 2 pupils, every term. 

Below you will find a few examples of the most recent intriguing questions posed, and some of Dr Bearchell's  fascinating answers. 

When people go into space would you see any aliens? Kiel Y6

Is there such thing as aliens? Molly and Alex Y3

Are aliens real and how would their body work and what do they look like? Jack Y5

There is a project to detect alien life in the universe. It is called the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Scientists use radio telescopes to listen to signals in space. In 1977 they detected a strange signal which lasted for 37 seconds. It is known as ‘The WOW Signal’ because that is what the scientist wrote on the print-out when they saw it. It came from an empty part of space and some people believe it came from a spaceship of aliens. 

In the 1960s a group of scientists worked out how many intelligent civilizations there might be in our galaxy (The Milky Way). It was 182 million. It is very likely that intelligent aliens are out there but we have no proof yet. Humans have sent messages into space on the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft (which have now left our solar system) and all our radio signals could be detected by aliens too. They might find us before we find them.We considered why humans are shaped as they are and concluded that we are a product of our environment. The key factors are gravity, oxygen, sun exposure, temperature and our lifestyle. Our questioners dressed up as humans which had adapted to different conditions.

High temperature—bald with big ears
Low temperature—fat and hairy
Low sunlight—big eyes, whiskers and antennae
Low gravity—long arms, tail, big head

It is almost impossible to predict what an alien would look like because there are so many
possible combinations. They might just look like germs. Have you ever thought that if we went to another planet, we would be the aliens!

Sounds of the Earth

Why do things change shape when you look at them in a glass of water? Eleanor Y2

The answer to Eleanor’s question can be hard for children to understand. However, it is easy to understand it as an example of an Optical Illusion (meaning ‘trick of the eye’).

Last time we talked about how light travels in straight lines to give us sharp-edged shadows. We talked today about rainbows and how when light enters some things it can be sent in a slightly different direction. This happens in a crystal or ‘prism’ but can also happen in a glass of water.

If a you look from the side at a straw which is touching the bottom of a glass of water, it looks broken. This is because of how your brain tries to make sense of light which has been bent or ‘refracted’. The diagram shows a pencil in a dish of water. The light from the tip of the pencil (X) travels up through the water in a straight line but is refracted when it reaches the air. It changes direction and then travels on to your eye.

Your brain tries to make sense of this by telling you that the end of the pencil is in a straight line back where the refracted light came from (Y). In this way the pencil appears not to be touching the bottom. This is why it is difficult to catch things in water, because they appear to be higher up than they actually are.

Your brain uses the information it gathers from the world and adds it to what you have learned. It then tries to make sense of things which don’t quite add up. This includes Optical Illusions. The bold lines on the first picture appear bent
because your brain decides you are looking into a tunnel, but the lines are actually straight. 

Look at the next picture — is it a duck, or can you see something else? 

And just how many legs does that elephant have?

Year 1 Wheat Project

Dr Bearchell is currently working with our Year 1 pupils on a project to grow their own Wheat and in Term 6 Year 1 met Charlotte Smith from BBC Radio 4. She is a presenter on Farming Today.

The children told her about their wheat crop. They told her about growing it from seed, watering, weeding and harvesting. They also told her that Wheatley Windmill will hope to grind the grain for us to turn into a harvest loaf.

As you can see from the pictures, she interviewed lots of the children. They also helped to record some sound effects including rustling wheat and hand weeding. They were absolute superstars. Charlotte commented that the children were clearly very proud of what they had achieved so far.

We finished the session with some photographs for the Farming Today website.

 Our item went out on Farming Today on Radio 4 in July! 

Year 1 Farmers become TV Stars!

Following hot on the heels of Radio Four Year 1 have also  received a visit from Jessica Cooper, a reporter from BBC South Today (Oxford). She interviewed them talking about their crop. She also recorded them in their classroom.

The interviews went brilliantly and the children were very proud of what they have achieved. Jessica commented on how lovely they all were.

She recorded for almost an hour but this will be edited down to a short piece.

The item will be broadcast on South Today at 6.30pm on BBC1. It will also be on BBC iPlayer for a day.

The children were also featured on the BBC Radio Oxford Breakfast Show and you can still hear them on:

It’s on at 1h 26 minutes into the programme. Please be aware the programme also features issues less appropriate for young children. The radio programme will be available for a week.

Why do balloons make my hair stand up? 
Martha Y1

First we worked out if Martha has magic hair. We found that we could make anyone’s hair stick to the balloon unless it was very short. We talked about how everything in the world has charges; ‘plus’ and ‘minus’. When the charges are balanced everything is normal and there is no crazy sticky hair. If you rub a balloon on your hair it steals some of the minus charge leaving your hair covered in plus charge. Because Martha’s hair wants its minus charge back, it is attracted to the balloon.

We discovered we could also use the balloon to make an empty pop can move or to pick up bits of tissue paper.

This force is called ‘static electricity’. ‘Static’ means not moving and we use the word ‘electricity’ because the minus charge is what electricity is made out of. If we make a circuit, the minus charge can flow and we have an electric circuit.

You can make static electricity by combing your hair, pulling off a woolly hat and even by shuffling along on certain types of man-made floor. If you store lots of static electricity on your body and then make a circuit by touching something you get a shock and it can really hurt!

What are bogeys made of? Joshua Y2

Bogeys are made by our body. They help to keep the tubes of our breathing system moist so that it does not hurt when we breathe in dry air. They also work together with the tiny hairs which line our breathing system. They act like glue to trap any nasty things which we breathe in. The resulting mixture is then swallowed (where your stomach acids destroy it) or comes out of your nose as bogeys.

We discovered that there are four main ingredients in bogeys and Joshua made some for us.

1. Mucus. This part is sticky and helps to trap things. It also contains enzymes which are special germ-zapping molecules made by your body.

2. Dead skin cells. Your breathing system is lined with skin and this is always being repaired and replaced by your body. The dead skin cells come off the surface and are carried away in your mucus.

3. Dead white blood cells. These cells help to catch germs which enter your breathing system. When they die they are carried away in your mucus.

4. Dirt. You breathe in all sorts of things including mud, pollen, dust, pollution and germs. It becomes trapped on the sticky surface of your
breathing system. Sometimes you can see this when you blow your nose. If you go to the beach you might get crunchy sandy bogeys.

Do you really want to eat them now?!

Why do we have rainbows? Lily-Mae Y1

What do we need to make a rainbow?

We need raindrops and sunshine to make a rainbow.

Last time we looked at how light travels in straight lines to make sharp-edged shadows. We know that when light goes through some special things it can change direction. We call these ‘prisms’. The lenses in spectacles do this, they bend the light to make it focus better for you. The light which comes from the sun is called ‘white light’ even though it is actually made up of lots of colours. When you have a rainbow, each raindrop acts like a prism to separate out these colours and
we see a rainbow.

You can also make a rainbow in other ways. If the sun is shining when you spray a hosepipe, sometimes you can see a rainbow like the one in the picture. You need a fine spray and might have to move about a bit to see it.

You can also see oil rainbows on the road after rain. These are made when oil has dripped off passing cars and lorries. The oil floats on the surface of the rain, the children saw how this
happens on a larger scale in a jam jar using water and vegetable oil. Light from above is reflected from the both top and bottom surfaces of the oil to give us a rainbow (or ‘oilbow’!)
One other way to make a rainbow is to use a crystal and shine sunlight through it. It makes a lovely pattern.

STEM Ambassador

We are delighted to announce that Dr Bearchell is now a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Network Ambassador! 

What does this mean? 

STEM Ambassadors are people who come from a working or educational background in a relevant field and who volunteer as inspiring role models for young people. Dr Bearchell will continue to contribute to the school's science curriculum by helping out in class with specific projects, delivering her fantastic Ask a Scientist assemblies and helping the school find and forge links with other science professionals. 

For more information on STEM Ambassadors

© Sarah Bearchell 2012
Pictures own or from public domain unless credited otherwise

more ask a scientist questions...

What is the biggest plant in the world and how big is it? Lucy Y6

We had already spoken about the biggest tree and considered those with the biggest trunk circumference, widest canopy and greatest height. For Lucy’s question we took a slightly different

There is a widely held misbelief that the biggest plant in the world is a Honey Fungus. We only see the mushrooms above ground but most of the fungus is below ground, this makes its size extremely difficult to measure. The fungus grows through the soil by means of tiny root-like structures called ‘hyphae’ which bunch together to form ‘mycelium’. They enter living trees, extract the food they need and kill the trees in the  process.

One individual is known to cover an area equivalent to four times that of Greater Leys and Blackbird Leys put together, or 1 665 football pitches. Genetic fingerprinting shows us it is all one individual. However, this is not a plant! For a long time fungi were considered to be plants but we now know they are completely separate. It is almost certainly the largest organism on Earth.

The heaviest tree is actually a clonal population of a something similar to the silver birch. Here lots of stems come up from a single set of roots growing through the soil. This one is exceptionally large with an estimated 47 000 trunks covering an area approximately the same as Greater Leys.

The widest tree is also a contender for the biggest plant. The Great Banyan is 1km wide; about the same distance as from school to the last house on the Oxford Road. It has lots of aerial roots which have grown down to the ground. They fetch water and food for the tree and also become woody and provide support.

The plant with the biggest volume is not the tallest
in the world. The tallest tree is a coast redwood
from California which is 115.5m tall. The biggest
known single stemmed plant on Earth is the giant
sequoia known as ‘General Sherman’. It is
approximately the same weight as 16 blue whales.

Why do your fingers go wrinkly if you stay in the bath too long? Jess & Rhiannon, Y6

Wrinkly fingers in the bath are sometimes called ‘prunes’ (after the dried fruit). The scientific name for this is ‘water-induced wrinkling’.

Scientists used to believe that a special molecule in your skin, called ‘keratin’, soaked up the water and expanded, giving your fingers a wrinkled
appearance. It is the same molecule which makes your hair and fingernails, so has a job in toughening the skin on the fingertips and toes. This is why they are the only bits of your body to wrinkle in the bath.

It was then discovered that people with damage to the nerves in their hands no longer got pruned fingers in the bath. This suggested that nerves have a part in what is happening.

Scientists now believe that water is absorbed into the skin and this alters the balance of chemicals under the skin surface. This causes the nerves to fire more quickly and the blood vessels deep in the skin get smaller. There is then more room under the skin and it goes wrinkly.

In 2012 scientists showed that wrinkly fingers make it easier for us to handle wet objects. We tested this idea in assembly. If our fingers were wrinkly all the time we would be more likely to cut ourselves because pruned fingers are less sensitive. Our bodies are able to increase grip in wet conditions but this soon returns to normal so we don’t damage ourselves!